When it first kicked off in 1982, only a few stars showed up to the mid-day event meant to honor them. But within about 10 years, the luncheon has picked up steam; last year, the event set a new record: 150 of the 188 nominees arrived, with 18 of the 20 actor nominees in attendance, Variety reports. (Even Deadline hails the invite-only event as "unquestionably one of the highlights of any awards season"). This year, about 140 attendees showed up.
Though the event is mostly just a "feel-good , ‘everyone’s still a winner’ " pat on the back for nominees, awards strategists took the opportunity to gauge Oscar reactions in Q&A sessions, as ballots go out on Friday for the final vote. The stars who generated the most buzz at the insider event were "Beasts of the Southern Wild's" 9 year-old best actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, "Argo's" Ben Affleck (who has been shut out of the best director category although his film is a front-runner for best picture) and "Life of Pi" special visual effects nominee Bill Westenhofer.